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Plant Care: Rhipsalis

Plant Care: Rhipsalis

Seems ambitious to try and cover a whole genus of cacti (some 35 different species) in one blog post. I'm game. 

Colloquially referred to as 'Jungle Cactus', this group of plants wouldn't survive long in the hot, arid landscapes we often associate Cacti with. Furthermore, most don't have any spines and they tend to have a long, thin trailing habit - a far cry from their upright, prickly cousins. All species (with one exception - Rhipsalis baccifera, or Mistletoe Cactus) are from the jungles of the Carribean, Central and Southern America - hence the 'Jungle Cactus' moniker. 

Good news for the pet owners out there - they are non-toxic so no need to hide from your curious cats or pugnacious pups!

Below is a general guide to Rhipsalis care, but keep in mind there are many species to choose from and each one will have slightly different requirements and respond differently to varying degrees of light and temperatures. 

CARE

Light

Throw out your preconceivednotions on cacti - Rhipsalis do not grow best in direct sunlight. These are understory plants and thrive in bright, filtered light. Morning sun is ideal but direct afternoon sun will burn the foliage or turn them yellow or create spotting. Some rhipsalis will turn purple-red given too much light, so if this happens just provide a bit more shade. 

Potting Media

Most Rhipsalis are either lithophytic (grows on rocks) or epiphytic (grows on trees) and will grow best in a general indoor potting mix. They have a shallow root system and can therefore be potted up in shallower pots, not requiring as much potting mix as plants with more vigorous roots. Many growers prefer potting up in terracotta, as the porous pots allow the roots to 'breath' more, as they would in their natural environments. 

Water

Its easy to pick up the 'cactus' part of the common name, and forget the 'jungle'. Unlike cacti, Rhipsalis do need to be watered regularly. Be careful though as they can be susceptible to root-rot. It's always recommended to stick your finger  in the potting media down to the first knuckle - if it is still moist, hold off on the watering. 

Fertiliser

Rhipsalis need very few added nutrients, so fertilise once a month and always fertilise with a half to quarter dose, only while the plants are actively growing.

Temperature

 Best kept at temperatures between 16-27°C, they are not frost tolerant and being from the tropics they prefer a humid envirnoment. A lack of humidity will have an adverse effect on your plants health and overall growth. 

Extras

Rhipsalis are a joy to propagate. Often it is a matter of simply cutting of part of the stem and planting into a container with a good, free draining potting mix, roughly 3-4cm deep. Care as you would the mother plant, and you should start to see root development after about 4 weeks.

They are fairly resistant to pests and diseases, with root rot and mealy bug being the biggest threats. 

Rhipsalis will treat you to sporadic blooms all year round given the right conditions.